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Spring Commencement
Commencement 2012
Robert Gates
Robert M. Gates

Commencement Speaker

Former United States Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates will deliver the commencement address during the 129th Spring Commencement at The University of Texas at Austin.  Dr. Gates is currently chancellor of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia and served as president of Texas A&M University from 2002 to 2006. 

“Robert Gates is not only a former colleague and an intellectual leader but a model of service to our nation,” said Bill Powers, president of The University of Texas at Austin. “I’m personally eager to hear what he has to say and excited that our new graduates and their families are going to have the benefit of his global insights.”

Secretary Gates served as the nation’s 22nd secretary of defense from 2006 to 2011 and is the only secretary of defense in U.S. history to be asked to remain in office by a newly elected president. He served under eight U.S. presidents, including George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

On Secretary Gates' last day in office, President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honor. 

Robert Gates began his public service career in 1966, when he joined the Central Intelligence Agency. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force the following year and spent nearly 27 years as an intelligence professional, including service at the National Security Council and White House. He was director of Central Intelligence from 1991 until 1993, the only career officer in CIA's history to rise from entry-level employee to director.

Prior to being named president of the university in 2002, Dr. Gates served as interim dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M.

“Because of his leadership in higher education and prominence in the public sector, I think Secretary Gates will be a great speaker to talk to students about their accomplishment of graduating from a great institution, and how to leverage that to tackle the challenges of the future,” said Student Government President Natalie Butler.

Secretary Gates has been awarded the National Security Medal, the Presidential Citizens Medal, has three times received the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, and has three times received CIA's highest award, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal.

He is the author of the memoir From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insiders Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War, published in 1996.

Until becoming secretary of defense, Dr. Gates was chairman of the Independent Trustees of The Fidelity Funds, the nation's largest mutual fund company, and on the board of directors of NACCO Industries, Inc., Brinker International, Inc. and Parker Drilling Company, Inc.

He has also served on the board of directors and executive committee of the American Council on Education, the board of directors of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges and the national executive board of the Boy Scouts of America. He has also been president of the National Eagle Scout Association.

A native of Kansas, Robert Gates received his bachelor's degree from the College of William and Mary, his master's degree in history from Indiana University and his doctorate in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown University.